The ambition to create new products is one of the most distinctive attributes of modern beer makers. And along with the great passion and creativity brewers put into their beer, making beer that stands out on the shelf means developing unique and appealing label design as a means of differentiation in an increasingly competitive market.
With more than 8,000 breweries currently operating in the U.S., there’s more pressure than ever to make a beer pop out from the pack. That’s why, to best catch the attention of today’s consumers, brewing companies are placing just as much importance on what’s on the can or bottle as the liquid inside it — and further, not only getting products into their hands, but also onto their social media feeds.
Of course, the best are able to fuse the two into a single entity, and to help guide us to those, we asked the ones making both to share their favorites. Below, you’ll find a dozen or so of the beer market’s most eye-catching brands, according to their founders and brewmasters, marketing directors, designers, and artistically inclined staff. We can all agree that 2020 has already felt like an entire year, and then some. So, why not take a look?
The Best Beer Labels According to Beer Pros:
- Keeping Together The Still Point of the Turning World
- Jester King Unfiltered Pilsner
- Homage Brewing Saison Spritz
- Track Brewing x Range Brewing Meet Me In The Middle
- Other Half Broccoli World
- Non Sequitur Love Your Friends Die Laughing
- Ever Grain Green Iguana
- Forest & Main A Constant Noise
- TrimTab Theory of Abundance
- Hop Butcher Kielbasa King
- Heater Allen Zwickelbier
- Wayfinder Beer Mad Chuck
- Allagash Nowaday
Keep reading for details about all the recommended bottles!
“I’m continuously impressed by Averie Swanson and the beers she’s making for her new Keeping Together label, and The Still Point of the Turning World is no different. The ornamental and so-very-elevated art nouveau styling of this release has harmonized beautiful beer by placing it in equally beautiful packaging.” — Alexandra Nowell, Brewmaster, Three Weavers Brewing Company, Inglewood, Calif.
“Jester King’s Unfiltered Pilsner. First off, Jester King beer in a can?! Simply amazing. I honestly love all of the brewery’s artwork — shout-out to talented artist Josh Cockrell — and this one really stood out to me for its classic beauty.” — David Stein, Founder, Creature Comforts Brewing Company, Athens, Ga.
“My crush for Homage Brewing began in 2017 after I saw its first can, Four Corners. There is something bold and honest about the use of a transparent label on a silver can that has stuck with me through the years, and informed the way we think about cans at Fernson. Fast-forward to today, and Homage continues to think creatively and intentionally about their cans. The brewery’s new line, Saison Spritz, flaunts illustrations as delicate and beautiful as the blending of the beer inside. The painterly, abstract brushstrokes and soft color palette make this feel like it should be hung next to a piece from Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series rather than sat in a to-go cooler.” — Evan Richards, Marketing Director, Fernson Brewing Company, Sioux Falls, S.D.
“There are so many brewers who have upped their aesthetic and are designing really sharp can labels. Track from the U.K., the beer is delicious and the design supports that. The brewery’s cans are graphic, well composed, and consistent, but they also infuse a sense of whimsy to the labels. I like the use of pattern and color that toes the line of contemporary graphics and disciplined design. Meet Me In The Middle, a collab with Range Brewing, is a nice example, especially in how the design uses negative space to break the frame of the label and express/overlay another figure within the label.” — Basil Lee, Founder, Finback Brewery, Queens, N.Y.
“The pink and green color scheme on Other Half’s Broccoli World takes me back to my first Broccoli five-panel cap of the brewery’s, several years ago. The cartoon is awesome, and reminds me of a ‘90s video game. And the fact that a broccoli character is playing a video game console on the can is the perfect concept of inception!” — Kyle Harrop, Founder and Brewer, Horus Aged Ales, Oceanside, Calif.
“I love the distinct style and bold illustration of Non Sequitur’s Love Your Friends Die Laughing, and frankly all of Non Sequitur’s labels. You can spot one of them from a mile away. It’s always great when a label design fits a name perfectly, and with Love Your Friends Die Laughing, the designer nailed it with the stylized laughing skeleton illustration front and center on the can.” — Parker Olen, Co-owner and Designer, Mast Landing Brewing Company, Westbrook, Mich.
“Green Iguana from Ever Grain is one of the most cared for designs I’ve seen this year. The matte iguana up against a metallic scaled pattern background is surprising. The background is so subtle that it’s hardly noticed from afar, but up close brings on the fun and exciting experience of discovering a new label you immediately love.” — Kat Manning, Designer, Marlowe Artisanal Ales, New Haven, Conn.
“I really love Forest & Main’s labels! They’re all drawn and/or water-colored by my buddy Dan Endicott, who’s one of the two founders. I’m constantly inspired by his deep connection to the imagery and the emotive and abstract exploration that you find on their labels. I even have one of his watercolors up in my house. It’s one of the first things I see every day, and it always puts me in a good place. Recently though, the label for A Constant Noise, an English-style bitter, has stood out to me as a favorite. The colors, the way they spread across the label, the dichotomy between free-flowing and rigid lines; the vibe is just perfect.” — Marco Leyte-Vidal, Founder, Unseen Creatures Brewing & Blending, Miami
“I spent five years in Alabama and love to see what TrimTab in Birmingham has been putting out. Theory of Abundance, a Mosaic and Citra double IPA from its Light Visions collection, has been my favorite this year. I’ve always enjoyed the can art from TrimTab as the bright palette and patterned retro designs tend to meet modern designs. Theory of Abundance successfully communicates the brewery’s branding and the liquid will have customers anticipating each Light Visions release with high expectation.” — Anderson Moss, Sales and Marketing Director, Mustang Sally Brewing Company, Chantilly, Va.
“Hands down, Hop Butcher’s Kielbasa King. The brewery’s colorful, illustrative artwork style continues to captivate with every release, and this particular design, quite ‘frank’-ly, just makes you happy. And the beer was fantastic too!” — Mike Thiel, Senior Brand Manager, Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago
“I’m a huge crispy kid, and a big fan of Heater Allen’s lagers. I’m also a big fan of consistency in design and brands that have a unique font treatment. Heater Allen’s cans are all of that, especially Zwickelbier. I love the simplicity of this can, and I’m obsessed with the script lettering Heater Allen uses for style descriptors. It somehow feels timeless, yet modern. Plus, what’s inside the can is pretty great, too. More Franconian-style kellerbiers, please, and thank you.” — Em Sauter, Retail Staff, Fox Farm Brewery, Salem, Conn.
“When I visited Wayfinder Beer, in Portland, I had a chance to talk to brewmaster Kevin Davey, who creates extremely well-executed lagers and hop-forward beers. He was incredibly humble and forthcoming. Aside from the brewery’s remarkable beers, I was also drawn towards its crisp can designs. Mad Chuck is one of my favorites, reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art. Wayfinder’s beer and packaging are equally superb.” — Jordan Harvell, Lead Brewer, Monday Night Brewing, Atlanta
“I’ve long been a fan of nearly everything Allagash does with its packaging and marketing, and Nowaday blonde ale is no exception. It’s a crisp, pretty, and nostalgic label that sets a scene and evokes the message and style of the beer itself, and that’s what we should all be going after with our designs. A bonus is that it’s a beer that sounds delicious and that gives back to their community. Being about as far away from them as you can in the lower 48, I just hope I get to try some one day.” — Matt Lutton, Marketing Manager, Reuben’s Brews, Seattle